Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Happy St. Patrick's Day

And Thank you all the commentators on this blog- I've collected a sample of them below;

Chris Blattman;
As usual, it's like being a kid in a candy store. I'm awed by the volume of high-quality daily links in general. Thanks!

And once again I ask why it is that economists, who are supposedly trained in mathematics, seem unable to handle the most basic units properly.

The unit of electrical power usage is (kW h/a), ie kilowatt hours/annum, NOT kW/h.
(There are alternative ways to write this, of course. You could write J/a, or you could write W, or you could even use kJ/h though neither would be especially natural. The one you cannot write is kW/h.)

Luis Enrique;
On the one hand I find your blog incredibly useful, on the other hand I never get any fricking work done because I am always following links and reading stuff I found here.

On Solow reviews A Farewell to Alms;

Isn't Solow basically missing Clark's point?
I haven't read the book yet, just heard Clark talk about it, but at least one of his points is that, contrary to the sneering of various left and right-wing types, Malthus was basically correct --- the story of humanity until the Industrial revolution was of whatever improvements were made to productivity being dissipated in increased population.

By these lights, what is significant in Europe during the 19th century was that a set of cultural conventions arose that did NOT lead to increased wealth being translated into 12 babies per woman.
(To be fair, it certainly helped that huge stretches of the world "opened up" as places to dump excess Europeans, rather to the detriment of those who had previously been living there. I'd be interested to see the numbers as to whether it was this or controlled fertility that was moer important in preventing a Malthusian squandering.)

This could, for example, be used as a foil to Solow's claim regarding China --- China deliberately and methodically forced its citizenry away from a Malthusian trajectory, regardless of what the underlying culture may have wanted. Likewise one could argue that this is, perhaps, part of Africa's problem --- that they are still stuck in that world --- or at least they were until AIDS came along, and killing productive people, after they have spent 18 years or so as unproductive kids is hardly the way to resolve the issue, and can't be compared with the required situation of having fewer kids in the first place.

On Watch A Beautiful Mind on You Tube;
The Noncooperative Game in A Beautiful Mind
The movie suggests that a motivating example for the discovery of Nash equilibria might have been the strategies of five suitors most attracted to the same woman in a group of five. As suggested by the movie's visuals, positive outcomes occur only when each woman is approached by one suitor. In the two-person version of this game, each of two suitors, say John and Martin, decides with what probability, say x and y respectively, he will approach the more attractive of two women. The expected payoff to John is xa(1 – y) + (1 – x)by, where a > b > 0 since John prefers the more attractive woman. Likewise the expected payoff to Martin is (1 – x)cy + xd(1 – y), where c > d > 0. Two Nash equilibria for this game, as suggested in the movie, occur when x = 1 and y = 0 (with payoffs a and d) or when x = 0 and y = 1 (with payoffs b and c). The only other Nash equilibrium is when x = c/(c + d) and y = a/(a + b) (with payoffs ba/(a + b) <>

Ross Emmett's Teaching Philosophy
I can't resist responding, since this is my teaching philosophy that was just called "stupid"!

The story was used in my statement of teaching philosophy as an illustration of my approach. The approach itself is explained in my statement, giving a justification that runs in terms of what my goals in the classroom are. Those goals are not the impartation of knowledge or telling the students what to think. Instead, my purpose is to help students ask better questions, make arguments that reflect the complexity of issues, and use the tools they have effectively.

A Question to Tyler Cowen, Dani Rodrik and Greg Mankiw
When we are lectured about economics, I hope that we do not take it as the Gospel, rather, we treat it as something to be discussed. I would hope that a lecture on ethics and moral choice would be treated in the same manner, not as indoctrination. The moral consequences of the application of economic policies can be far reaching, and these consequences should, at the very least, be featured in a graduate program designed to send people out into the world as important decision makers.

How to be a jack of all development trades;
Well, I wouldn't necessarily say that the Harvard MPA/ID is the best development curriculum in the world. I wanted to speak of an econ-intensive, development focused masters degree. I think these other programs would be fine substitutes. I'd hate to sound like one of these obnoxious Harvard grads you see in the movies (and, every so often, at Harvard).

Even standard MPA programs can be transformed into something development focused and rigorous at many schools.

Kiss of Death vs eating GDP;
I'm with Gates, but that's because The White Man's Burden is a bitter, nasty book, rent of context, self-inconsistent, and starts by ranting more about the Evil of Jeffrey Sachs and throwing out bogus and ad hominem attacks on Sachs more than even pretending to make a case.

I expected better from the author of The Elusive Quest for Growth.

Governance Blogs;
Thanks for the heads up about Kaufmann's blog, which is good, judging by the first set of posts so far. He is already challenging convention and political correctness even if he works at the World Bank, providing information, and a bit of fun. And also worth checking out a new article on economics and rule of law in the current issue of The Economist, featuring Kaufmann's work with his colleagues and also the research of other noted economists.

The best comment for the last;

Operationalizing 'Agriculture for Development '

Google has become sophisticated providing translation software. But the search engine hasn't even tried to help us mortals with translating World Bank language into readable English. They know better. What were you thinking when posting this? The long text content speaks for itself, but just look at their title. 'Operationalizing' means what? 'Agriculture for Development' is a wonderful redundancy. Or meant to distinguish it from Agriculture for McCain? Duh.

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